I was reading something on Sarah Hoyt's site, According to Hoyt, and it triggered some thoughts about smartness.
Now, you would think that, as I'm a teacher, I would look upon the book-smart (those who do well in school) as the top of the line in Smartness.
You would be wrong. I'm of the belief that many people are smart, some are as dumb as a box of rocks (maybe even dumber), but that it all had very little to do with school. Or smart parents, in general. Or social class.
What, to me distinguishes the Smart from the Not-So is not the degrees awarded, nor the tests passed with stratospherically high scores, nor even an official designation of Gifted & Talented.
It's the desire to know more.
Years ago, I read about a bus driver, who started attending college in his spare time, eventually graduating at the top of his class, and winning a scholarship for further study. He'd grown up in a poor family, with few prospects for more education after high school.
One thing he said struck me at the time as wrong - he said that he didn't believe that brains could be inherited. He felt that it was the desire to learn that might be passed on.
I thought that was absolutely wrong. I was certain that IQ was proven to be heritable, and the determining factor was that heritage.
After years of teaching, I've come to realize that he may have had something - that his insight may be more correct than I realized at that time.
I've known smart kids - and, many average. Seldom actually dumb, except in the sense that teens are always dumb - little experience, a tendency to believe plausible lies, and impulsiveness that leads them to do things even they have to agree were pretty dumb.
What has distinguished the Life Winners - those that made the most of what they had been given access to - was, generally, ambition, that burning desire for more than they had.
Some have it.
Others, equally or MORE gifted, do not.
Kids whose parents are CEOs of multinational corporations sometimes, just don't have the burn.
Others, from desperately wretched backgrounds, with every excuse for failure, find the guts to overcome all obstacles and do whatever it takes to succeed.
Some people are content to just meander through life without making their mark. They make enough money to satisfy their needs, and keep their time clear for what interests them - family, sports, video games, hobbies.
That's actually OK. Despite all the ads and campaigns that urge everyone to be MORE, in America, if you just want to "go with the flow", life can be pretty good. There isn't a law that forces you to run around madly trying to pile up more of the world's riches.
Similarly, just because someone has attended a prestigious university, graduated with high honors, and is pulling down a huge salary, is no guarantee that he/she isn't an absolute moron.
Grade inflation has reached such a level as to invalidate any reliance on grades as an indicator of knowledge. The person with that 'A' might have learned something, they might not. Since both the learned, and the un-learned have the same grade, there is no way to tell the difference.